Why did I decide to go down the self-publishing route?
Well, I've tried regular publishers and agents on and off for years. They told me my stuff was 'of publishable standard' but just not quite right for the market. In particular, SF is really hard to place in the UK. OK, nowadays the world has opened up and I could have tried to publish in America, but I'd got really disheartened. Then a friend happened to mention Kindle Direct and I thought: Why not?
Do you have to be a real techie to do it?
I thought that might be the case; my friend is an IT lecturer. But actually, unless you're still at the stage of writing by hand or on a manual typewriter, it's pretty straightforward. I spent quite a bit of time just reading the KDP website info - it's really well-organised and tells you exactly what to do at each stage. And then if something goes wrong, or there's something you don't quite get, you can email them and they get back pretty quickly. For instance, the first time I uploaded a book, it came up with just the text and no images. Apparently when you convert a Word document to a Web page you need to put it in a zip file before you upload it so all the images go too. They not only told me this but also sent step-by-step instructions.
So what are the advantages, and is there a downside?
What I really want is for people to read my books. Anything that gets them out there has got to be a plus. And with KDP, I'm in control - I decide what I want the cover to look like, the blurb, the price, the publication date, everything. The downside is I could be getting those things wrong. And just getting the books published is only the start, as I'm now discovering - they offer a few promotional tools like Countdown deals, where you reduce the price in a particular marketplace for a limited period, but really, it's down to me, and self-promotion isn't one of my strengths.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of self-publishing?
I'd say, go with KDP first, and if you start selling think about CreateSpace, also an Amazon company doing print-on-demand. Of course there are people out there who'd rather read on paper, but not that many, and if you're only selling small numbers it's probably not worth doing a whole new format and learning a whole lot of different IT skills. Read everything carefully and look on Amazon at what a few other authors have done. Use Amazon's Author Central and any other facilities they offer you. And don't expect to become a best-seller overnight. You're not likely to become a millionaire either. But if you just want a few more people to read your work, it's not a huge amount of effort and it's really satisfying to see your stuff there in the online store.